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What price Freedom (of Information)

After Gavin Sheridan and I were on The Last Word (starting at 24:37) on Today FM yesterday, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for some reason decided it would issue a Press Release defending its Minister’s plan to multiply Ireland’s Freedom of Information Fees.

You can read the release, complete with fact checking by Gavin, here.

What caught my eye about the release was the assertion that on average it cost €600 to process an FOI request.

Let’s leave aside the fact that, in his 2009 paper “An economic argument for stronger Freedom of Information laws in Ireland” Dr. Nat O’Connor said

“It is highly probable that the fee regime is counter productive and costs more money to operate than it generates”

Let’s instead find the source of this €600 euro.

Oh, wait. Here it is. The figure appears in this February 2008 speech by Mr. B. Ahern.

The cost …has probably increased to €600

It was just as well our former Taoiseach inserted that “probably”, as the Secretary General of the Department of Finance in May of the same year, 2008, confirmed it was wrong.

The cost of processing an FOI request is estimated by my Department to be about €485

-Mr. Ciaran Connolly, Speech at Freedom of Information and Better Government – Assessing the First Ten Years, 15th May 2008

This makes it all the more surprising to see Mr. Ahern’s wrong figure reappear in yesterday’s press release from the Department of Public Expenditure

One Comment

  1. Fees are currently set as follows in accordance with statutory instruments nos. 139 of 1998, 13 of 1997, and 264 of 2003.